KAMPALA – Uganda was ranked 1st in Africa 15th in the world amongst countries affected by natural disasters in the year 2020. The revelation was made by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) during the ongoing National Disaster Preparedness Dialogue at Speke Resort Munyoyo on Wednesday.
Uganda is a highly disaster-prone country affected by all types of hazards ranging from floods, landslides, droughts, locusts, windstorms, hailstorms, and lightning public health emergencies (e.g. Ebola Virus Disease and COVID-19), among others.
The OPM while presenting the Development of Disaster Risk Management Plan revealed that floods and landslides affected all regions over the last 5 years.
According to the OPM, losses and damages caused by disasters amounted to $152.2M in 2020 alone and $756M between 2010-2011. Fifty-one (51) districts in 8 regions were affected.
According to the last update of INFORM Risk Index, Uganda ranks 21 out of a total of 190 countries analyzed worldwide in terms of risk driven by the increasing frequency, intensity and scale of disasters affecting the country.
The IPC Acute Food Insecurity Projected Scenario (August 2021 / January 2022) has projected that more than 1.5 million people are facing a crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity with a projected 56,560 children being acutely or severely malnourished due to the combined impact of multiple hazards in Karamoja sub-region in 2020/2021.
The Desert Locust Livelihoods Impact Assessment, funded by USAID, estimated that the desert locust invasions affected the food security and livelihoods of 749 515 households in Acholi, Elgon, Karamoja, Lango and Teso sub-regions. While Uganda was spared the full impact of the devastation experienced by other countries in the Horn of Africa, the hazard highlighted the vulnerability to future invasions and the need to increase national preparedness. The desert locust invasion also raised awareness in February 2020 on the state of preparedness to hazards in Uganda in which three months prior to the invasion the recommendation had been for Uganda to pay its arrears and leave the Desert Locust Control Organization (DLCO) as the desert locust were not perceived as a plausible threat to Uganda. The ensuing events highlighted the need to plan for infrequent and unforeseeable shocks, as well as those that are regularly occurring.
Without adequate relief funding, these disasters present a risk of backsliding against development gains and the achievement of the SDG targets.
On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), Mr. Ryan Anderson, the Deputy Country Director at WFP said that an estimated 750,000 households were affected in terms of their food security and livelihoods across Eastern and Northern Uganda, highlighting Uganda’s vulnerability to the desert locust.
The Government, FAO and WFP’s assessments show that 30 percent of the population in Karamoja experienced crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity between March and July 2021.
“We know that the lean season occurs every year, we know when it occurs, we know which areas are often affected the hardest, and we know which people are most at risk. So why did this many people have to suffer?” Anderson wondered.
He said that COVID-19, the repeated floods and landslides across the country in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and this month’s sudden refugee influx are some of the events that have underscored the need for better preparedness.
“We are facing a reality where the frequency and impact of hazards in Uganda are rising,” he said, adding that, “And if we proceed with business as usual, that means the number of people in need will also increase.”
According to FAO and WFP, Neither the Government nor development partners nor civil society can continually finance the rising costs of responding to the overwhelming needs to alleviate human suffering in the wake of each hazard.
“We must shift our attention to strengthen disaster preparedness and meet our commitments under the Sendai Framework,” said Anderson.
“We must anticipate the foreseeable as well as the unforeseeable events, we must integrate disaster risk reduction in response preparedness, and we need to ensure an effective response capacity at all levels of society.”
The National Dialogue is convened with the recognition that only by bringing all stakeholders together around the table, the country will be able to unlock the barriers to effective disaster preparedness.
Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) called on the government and stakeholders for adequate computing facilities to facilitate modeling and data management to enhance timely and reliable forecasts to improve early warning and enable communities to easily cope up with extreme climatic events such as drought and floods
“Weather and climate information is important for all sectors of the economy,” they said.
They said that there is a need to train local journalists in weather forecasting and interesting youths with ICT skills to develop applications that can help in dissemination (Hackathon)
They, however, decried inadequate weather monitoring stations (operational and expansion costs), access and uptake of weather and climate information and keeping in pace with exponential technological advances eg High Computing Facilities.
The Ministry of Water said that floods are becoming the biggest challenge the country is facing with the worst floods happening in 1961, 1997, 2007 & 2020 – 2021
“Direct flood damage: loss of lives, damage to property, environment, potential health hazards and economic losses,” Ms. Carolyne Nakalengo, Principal Hydrogeologist, Ministry of Water said.
According to her, the major causes of flooding in Uganda include extreme rainfall, backwater effects, blockage of drainage channels, deforestation, urbanisation, landslides and mudflows in mountainous terrain.
The ministry, however, listed the following to fight the disaster
- Preliminary studies for specific flood-prone areas were undertaken between 2001 to 2015 however these were not concluded
- Pilot real-time/telemetric water level monitoring stations were established e.g. Lake Victoria – (no forecasts prepared)
- Until March 2020 flood responses were adhoc
- Cabinet established a NTTT (14 Ministries and 7 Agencies), coordinated by MoWE to Develop a National Action Plan for floods
- The goal of the national action plan is to protect investments, lives and property, while harnessing the water resources and increasing resilience of the country to floods and droughts events
- Design and implementation of a Flood Early Warning System(FEWS) for River Nyamwamba -finalising procurement
- River training works on river Nyamwamba (clean up) – finalising procurement
- Catchment restoration activities for critical ecosystems wetlands, forests, mountains, riverbanks & lake shores and rangelands (e.g. 40m tree planting campaign, investing in forests and protected areas for climate-smart development, Ecosystem adaption in mountainous areas)
- Temporally rehabilitation of damaged stations to allow for manual monitoring of water levels – ongoing
The OPM highlighted the following to improve the understanding of disaster risk, hazard and vulnerabilities at all levels
- Strengthen disaster risk coordination and governance at all levels of government; with clarity in roles and responsivities of all actors, communities and individuals (DRM Legal Framework)
- Advocate for investments in disaster risk reduction for resilience through structural and non-structural measures, capacity building and research
- Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction
- Increase resilience to emerging disaster risks i.e Covid 19 and other pandemics
- Strengthen scientific and technical capabilities through collaboration with private sector, media and academia
- Promote mainstreaming of disaster risk management into national development planning processes (National – Parish)